It was not quite the return to action the German had expected after missing the first two races of the season due to contracting COVID-19.
Vettel had managed a few laps but his car soon stopped with smoke billowing out the rear.
After getting out, the German grabbed a fire extinguisher off a track marshal and gave the car a spray.
Session over, he then rode along the track back to the pits on a motor scooter with his helmet perched on the top of his head, at one point waving at fans with both hands.
This is the most iconic end to a practice session we can remember 😅#AusGP #F1 https://t.co/4jPlAZotzd
— Formula 1 (@F1) 1649393250000
Stewards summoned Vettel and fined him for a breach of the sporting regulations in entering the track without permission during a five minute period after a session had ended.
Vettel insisted he had been given the all-clear by a marshal who had offered him use of the scooter.
“I said, ‘Can I drive it?’ Because I prefer to drive myself,” he told reporters in the paddock.
“And then he handed me the scooter, so I said, ‘OK,’ and he said, ‘Off you go.’ And I went.
“I mean I would like to get the car back and not to have a problem in the first place. I’m not here to drive a scooter.”
Stewards said Vettel had set off alone and on the track rather than a designated route while the marshal tried to contact race control for instructions.
Vettel, who posted the 13th fastest lap before his mishap, was unable to return for the second free practice, with Aston Martin confirming it would need to swap in a new power unit.
“It will be fine tomorrow but it would have been nice to get a few more laps,” he said.